What Gen Z Think of Millennials' Most Beloved Pop Stars

"Drake's name rings a bell, I’m trying to think now… What was he famous for? Did he do ‘Thriller’?”
November 5, 2020, 9:30am
Drake, Taylor Swift and Rihanna 2010s pop stars
Photo: Music Videos for "Hotline Bling", "22" & "Work"

Remember watching Top 40 music videos on TV, using Bluetooth to send songs to your friends or, dare I say it, buying tracks for your gigantic iPod Classic? Gen Z don’t remember. Teens find most of their music through streaming platform algorithms, TikTok challenges and, if they’re lucky, via their parents playing some 2000s throwback banger in the car.

With this sped-up consumption of music, are the pop stars who defined the 2010s even relevant anymore? Kanye West, Rihanna, Drake, Beyoncé – they’ve all been around for well over a decade, so what do Gen Zs think of them? Did they care as much as we did that Taylor Swift released a folk album featuring Bon Iver this year?

KANYE WEST

“I’ve seen him on the Kardashians in his normal element, with his kids and family. I think he’s a nice guy, but there’s always a lot of controversy around him.” - Anna, 16, Staffordshire

“I don’t really listen to his music. From what I heard it sounds like rap? I’ve noticed that with music nowadays, 95 percent of it is about loving sex and drugs, when I think they should be addressing issues like feminism, homophobia, racism, mental health.” - Luka, 16, Liverpool

I’ve really gotten into Kanye. I love his earlier albums, like College Dropout and Late Registration. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is just pure artistry.” - Tom, 19, Glasgow

What do you think of his politics?

I really like Kanye West, but I can’t listen to him anymore because he’s a Trump supporter and it stresses me out. I think he makes really cool music, but then I’m torn because I don’t want to support it.” - Rosa, 17, Liverpool

“With everything that’s happened to him recently, I feel like a lot of people around my age are more concerned for him. Older people were just making fun of him, especially The Daily Mail.” - Daniella, 17, Essex

TAYLOR SWIFT

She writes a lot of break-up songs. They’re quite powerful, because she’s writing from experience and you can tell. I really like her music and think the way she writes songs is different from all the other pop stars.” - Anna

“Loads of people were raving about her latest album on TikTok. I used to listen to her when I was younger, but not that much anymore.” - Daniella

“She’s got a few bangers that are guilty pleasures, like ‘Love Story’. I’d say she’s the epitome of white girl pop. She’s got these tunes that are generally good, but it’s just essentially pop, isn’t it? It’s like the blueprint for pop music.” - Tom

“I can’t remember any of her albums, but I think the work she does outside of her music – like, for charities and stuff – is quite good.” - Luka

“When I was 13 I really liked her, but now something about her makes me feel uncomfortable.” - Rosa

What type of person do you think listens to Taylor Swift?

“I’d say 24 or 25-year-olds? Definitely people who are older than me.” - Daniella

DRAKE

“We will never be able to get rid of him. He’s overrated and I wouldn’t say he’s one of the best rappers ever. His style is confused. He’s gone from doing ‘Marvin’s Room’ to the ‘Toosie Slide’, which reminds me of doing the ‘Cha-Cha Slide’ in primary school. His friendships with Millie Bobby Brown and Billie Eilish are kinda creepy too.” - Daniella

“A lot of people do listen to him, especially in my age group. I think his music can be really hit or miss, because I find that some artists do write too much about things like sex and drugs, and it can be really off-putting.” - Anna

“I liked his music, but everything after ‘Hotline Bling’ kinda fell off.” - Mawda, 18, Manchester

“His name rings a bell, I’m trying to think now… What was he famous for? Did he do ‘Thriller’?” - Luka

LANA DEL REY

“I’ve never heard of her.” - Luka

“I know the name but I’ve never listened to her music.” - Anna

“I feel like I've never really got into Lana Del Rey as much as people I know. The whole thing of her bashing Black female artists is obviously in very bad taste, but I don't really care about her to care about it that much.” - Mawda

“I don't really listen to her music, but everyone on TikTok loves her. Apparently she's the spokesman of daddy issues or something?” - Daniella

What do you think of her persona?

“If she wants to have this persona of being this abandoned sugar baby, she’s clearly found a demographic for it.” - Mawda

“Some people believe that she tricked them into thinking she’s this bad girl, with this dark aesthetic and stuff, but really she’s just a dressed up white girl playing with people. Whether it’s true or not, it definitely led to the rise of the depressed Tumblr aesthetic.” - Tom

“It’s quite different to what you see in the pop genre. She’s just doing her own thing and doesn’t care about others. I thought her wearing that diamond mask with holes in it was so funny.” - Daniella

LADY GAGA

“That name just reminds me of 2010. ‘Just Dance’, ‘Poker Face’, the meat dress – it all reminds me of primary school. I would have been around eight at the time. I feel like she’s fallen off since. I know she’s just released a song with Ariana Grande, and I didn’t really like it.” - Daniella

“She’s probably one of my favourite artists - an icon! Her aesthetic is very mysterious, it’s very creative and captivating. You see it and you’re instantly engaged. I discovered her when I was growing up and my mum used to play it on the music video channels on rotation. I got obsessed with her.” - Luka

“I like Lady Gaga. I think she’s quite outspoken on her beliefs and she seems to be really aware of social issues, and I respect her digression from music into acting and actually doing well at it.” - Tom

“I really respect her as a performer, but wouldn’t really say I was a fan. I think her aesthetic was a lot more distinct before than it is now.” - Mawda

MILEY CYRUS

“I’ve been in love with Miley Cyrus since Hannah Montana, and since she’s been doing music it’s all been very exciting. I had a little pink MP3 player that my dad bought from Morrisons for Christmas and it had all her songs on it. ‘Can’t Be Tamed’ was one of my favourites. Then she went wild and everyone was being really horrible to her and I was so upset. She was clearly not doing well. When I got older I realised it was because her and her fiancé split up.” - Rosa

“She’s blowing up on TikTok because she released a cover of ‘Why Do You Only Call Me When You’re High’ by Arctic Monkeys, and everyone was like ‘this suits her perfectly’ and ‘this is the type of music she should be making’. The Disney Channel really tried to make this perfect pop princess and she was really young when she started on Hannah Montana. She obviously had a rough time and did ‘Wrecking Ball’, trying to stray so far from that image, which kind of made everyone take a step back from her life.” - Daniella

“When I was younger I really didn’t like her, but now I understand that I was influenced by a really misogynistic view of her. As a child she wasn’t able to do her fundamental human, emotional growth in the privacy of her own home. She’s done a lot of growing.” - Mawda

“She’s starting to come back in a way where she’s herself now and people are recognising that she actually does have talent. She does amazing covers, but her own songs don’t bang that much.” - Daniella

JUSTIN BIEBER

“I wouldn’t listen to any songs if he released them tomorrow.” - Rosa

“Everyone knows Justin Bieber. When you first listen to his songs you’re like, ‘Do I like this or do I not?’ They’re quite hit and miss.” - Anna

“When Justin first got famous I wanted to be like, ‘I’m not like other girls,’ and say I hated him, but I was secretly banging out ‘Baby’ in my room. He’s been through a lot of scandals but has cleaned up his image. So weird that he’s married now. When I think about it, he had to grow up in front of so many people and he was flipping younger than me! I don’t even know how I’d deal with that. So when I look at it from that perspective, I do feel sorry for him. I don’t listen to his songs now, though. I prefer his older music.” - Daniella

“I don’t know anyone who actually listens to him. He pops up randomly now and again, but more as a celebrity than a musician.” - Mawda

“I feel like he’s feeling his irrelevancy, because he was literally begging people to stream his songs and it was kinda tragic.” - Tom

RIHANNA

“I think she’s cool. She’s talking about what she cares about and doesn’t care for backlash. I respect and admire her. Also, ‘Umbrella’ is a fucking tune.” - Tom

“Everyone knows her, but I wouldn’t wait for her music. I think everything she’s done with Fenty is amazing, especially with how inclusive it is. I feel like she’s known more for her businesses outside of music.” - Anna

“I feel like everyone says they love Rihanna, but I actually love Rihanna, from way back when she was first starting out. I loved ‘Pon De Replay’. Even her last album, Anti, my favourite song is ‘Love On The Brain’ – it's beautiful, but when you listen to it you realise it's about domestic abuse. She doesn't have a gimmick, she's just a cool person. I've always been in awe of her.” - Mawda

KATY PERRY

“When I think of Katy Perry, I think of leaving high school. It’s not really my thing and I couldn't tell you if she’s made anything recently, but her name will always live on.” - Tom

“I think she’s really got the pop formula on lock. I listen to her old stuff like ‘I Kissed A Girl’, ‘Teenage Dream’, that sort of era.” - Mawda

“She’s OK, not exactly my favourite. I know a few of her older songs, but I wouldn’t listen to them anymore. I don’t know if that’s because I gained a music taste or because she doesn’t really make any more music.” - Anna

BEYONCÉ

“I think she’s amazing and she’s all about female empowerment, but I don’t like her music at all and I felt bad about it for ages.” - Rosa

“I think she really benefits from the African community – with The Lion King, and releasing an afrobeats album that had artists like Burna Boy and all these people on it. For her to be silent during [the protests in Nigeria], when she has one of the biggest platforms ever, was disappointing. She has so much power. I’m pretty sure she’s aware that she’s benefitting off this community, but I don’t think she’ll ever get cancelled. Her music is good, but I wouldn’t stay up all night for it to drop.” - Daniella

“Everyone knows Beyoncé, but I’ve never heard anyone saying, ‘Did you hear this new Beyoncé song?’ She’s one of those celebrities that could just disappear and then make a comeback and automatically people will think it’s a good album.” - Anna

“I think I used to resent Beyoncé because of her popularity, but when I heard Lemonade I was taken aback. It was so great, and the intricacies of the production is so much more developed than normal pop stuff. I think that’s where her superstardom is different from Drake, for example. We really got an insight into her life and about Jay-Z cheating on her.” - Tom

SELENA GOMEZ

“She’s so bland. If she was a spice, she’d be flour. She’s never had interesting music or a particularly interesting persona. Where are all her fans coming from?” - Mawda

“She falls in the same category as Ariana Grande for me. She was a Disney channel star and I loved that show, but she’s sort of on neutral ground.” - Tom

“She hasn’t changed much since her Disney days. I don't even know what it is that she's trying to do at the moment – like, is she trying to sing? Is she still acting? She’s one of those people there’s nothing really to hate her for, she’s just doing her own thing.” - Daniella

PITBULL

“Oh my god, that guy. Mr Worldwide! Does he even have music by himself? He always has music with other people. Pitbull takes me back to primary school discos. He’s so old, he probably has grandkids.”- Daniella

“I love Pitbull! I still actively listen to Pitbull. When I was younger I used to think that Pitbull and Sean Paul were the same person. He doesn’t even need to release music, he just lives on royalties.” - Mawda

“I only remember him as a meme.” - Tom

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